JACKSON -- As the highest ranking official from Wyoming who served in the Trump administration, Rob Wallace on Friday said he was proud to be in Washington, D.C., during such a pivotal time in American politics.
“There were a ton of wonderful experiences, but none more so than being proud to be from Wyoming,” Wallace said during his keynote speech Friday night to kick off the Wyoming Republican Party’s quarterly Central Committee meeting in Jackson.
As former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wallace related stories from his two years spent overseeing the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wallace told how wild horses brought from Wyoming were used to patrol the U.S. Southern Border during his time in the Trump administration.
“You see one of those mustangs coming at you with an armed guard and … the last thing you want to do is get in the way,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the Endangered Species Act has become a box that is hard to get out of, a law he believes has been weaponized in its application under the leadership of President Joe Biden.
The grizzly bear, which is listed as endangered, also has been a particular point of contention for many Wyoming residents.
“There’s been so many simple solutions we’ve worked to fix that law and they’ve got shot down,” he said.
Wyoming overwhelmingly supported Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, and the former president likely remains a political favorite in the Cowboy State.
Trump And The Environment
Wallace said although Trump didn’t support creating new national parks, he did support taking care of America’s existing parks.
“The interesting thing about Donald Trump is he says something, he can turn the entire Republican caucus on its ear and march,” Wallace said.
Under Trump’s watch and support, Congress passed the $9.5 billion Great America Outdoors Act, the most significant investment in national parks in U.S. history. Wallace said this achievement flouts a false narrative that Republicans don’t care about the environment.
“I can tell you about what they’re about,” Wallace said about the Republican environmental agenda. “They’ve got a great tradition of being great stewards of the land.”
Although Trump was criticized by opponents for his construction of the border wall, Wallace said the former president instructed the wall be built in a way that was considerate of the natural resources around it. There is a national park and a number of different wildlife refuges in the vicinity of the wall.
While most of society was being shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump made it a priority to keep national parks open, he said.
“But how do you convince 30,000 employees to come to work with a smile?” Wallace said.
By enacting a number of safety measures in about a month and coordination with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly, the park only opened up a few weeks late and remained open for the whole summer in 2020, he said.
“As soon as people saw Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, the rest of the system started to fall in line,” Wallace said, pointing out how Trump and Wyoming led the way to reopening the nation during the pandemic.
Wallace regaled the audience with the story of Wyoming’s close relationship with natural resources and the environment since achieving statehood.
He said there’s no other place on Earth that has had as much of an impact in the National Park movement and the way wildlife is managed. Wyoming was home to America’s first national park, Yellowstone.
Teton County's Role In The State Party
Teton County is the most Democratic county by percentage in the state. It’s also by far the wealthiest, with a much younger population than other parts of the state.
It’s also hosting this weekend’s GOP Central Committee meeting.
Wallace acknowledged these differences during his speech, but also mentioned how Teton County cast roughly 5,000 Republican votes in some races of the 2022 general election.
“I think for us to be a relevant party here, and it’s true in the rest of the state, we have to have a story about what we as Republicans think about the conservation of natural resources,” he said.
On Saturday, the party will host elections for chairman and vice chair.
In many ways, these elections represent Teton County's relationship with the rest of the state.
One candidate for chairman, Frank Moore, said he wants to represent all wings of the party.
The other candidate, two-time incumbent Chairman Frank Eathorne, said he prefers to focus on representing a specific segment of the party that follows strict adherence to the state Republican party platform.
Wallace didn’t back either candidate during his speech Friday, but Teton County GOP Chair Mary Martin stressed to party members the importance of their votes Saturday.
She also called for state Republicans to mend a growing rift between members of the party.
“We care about our families, we care about our children, we care about our communities,” she said. “But we have to, as Republicans, care about each other.
“We have to stop shooting at each other and stop fighting the cultural little carrots that the Democrats throw at us and really focus on the issues that matter.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at: Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com